Loyola Discusses the Future of Machine Learning

Samir El Idrissi | The PHOENIX

A scary and exciting world is just around the corner and that world was on display at the Water Tower Campus, where several talks on unsupervised machine learning took place on Feb. 9. Various speakers presented their different projects that utilize machine learning to accomplish many tasks, from assisting neuroscientific research to extracting sounds from an ocean of audio tracks.

In machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) allows programs to change without being programed to do so. A program undergoes a sort of digital evolution as successions of each generation of code learns how to better deal with a set of data. For example, if an AI rock, paper, scissors robot was pitted against you, it would be able to pick up on patterns when you play, learn your tendencies and would be able to beat you more consistently later.

The attendees of the event, mostly computer scientists from throughout Illinois, were observing the tool some scientists believe will soon take over industries around the world.

Dr. Mark Albert, a professor in charge of the Pervasive and Ambient Computing lab (PAC) at Loyola and a leading speaker at the event, said he looks to utilize machine learning to better understand human behavior in his lab.

Albert said machine learning is already impacting people’s lives when they use Siri or play video games.

“Decades ago you’d see people talking to their computers on Star Trek, and now it has become the norm that’s due to advances in machine learning,” Albert said.

Machine learning is already being widely used in both the scientific world for computational purposes and now the general public through things as simple as auto tagging on Facebook photos. Albert said you don’t have to look far to see what machine learning has in store.

“Within our lifetimes there will be self-driving cars on the market,” Albert said. “They are already in existence in limited markets. It’s important to note that even though major advances may not impact our day-to-day lives directly, there will be massive benefits behind the scenes.”

He described a civilization full of AI that could identify both criminals through security cameras and cancers in medical images. AI even has the potential to prescribe drugs based on one’s genetic makeup, according to Albert.

“Amazing things are on the horizon,” Albert said.

These advances would also have a huge impact on the job market, according to Albert.

Retail and driving jobs could be taken by a cheaper, automated, metallic worker, who can work 24/7 with no human error, Albert explained.

“Cars replaced the horse and buggy. Email replaced couriers for communication. Machines replace much of the repetitive work in assembly lines. Sure, jobs will be lost. They already have been. I would say most advances like these are a net benefit to society and shouldn’t be feared,” Albert said. “However, we should be prepared.”

Albert said he hopes people keep in mind, the science writer, Isaac Asimov’s laws for A. which would implement a three-rule code of conduct in all advanced robots. It would prevent the harm of humans from AI, harm to the AI itself and any disobedience that comes from the AI.

“We definitely need to support those who are going to be inevitably affected by the job decrease,” said first-year student Evlina Eddings. “There needs to be policy in place to protect all the taxi drivers and food workers who will lose their jobs to a robot.”

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